The Maghreb is the equivalent term of Northwest Africa. Geographically, the Maghreb can be seen as restricted to the three countries linked by the Atlas Mountains (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) which stretch from the Atlantic Ocean eastwards to north-west Tunisia. The climate is also similar (at least north of the Atlas), and there are many other reasons. Also from a biogeographic point of view, these three countries share more fauna and flora between them than between them and the rest of the region. So, biogeographically, the Maghreb can be defined by the North-west African region spanning the three countries plus the northernmost part of Libya, and perhaps a small area in northern Mauritania.
– The Maghreb has one of the highest percentages of endemic plants in the Mediterranean basin.
– The Maghreb has the highest percentage of endemic reptiles in the Mediterranean basin.
– The Maghreb has a big numbers of endemic mammals, especially micro-mammals, but also some larger species as well including the only primate north of the Sahara: the Barbary Macaque (Macaca sylvanus).
– What about birds? Their ability to fly means that the region is relatively not very isolated to allow a good number of species to evolve and differentiate as in the case of reptiles, mammals and plants. There are, however, some endemic birds.
Maghreb’s endemic birds:
Until a few decades ago we used to have only a very small number of endemic birds, one restricted to Algeria (Algerian Nuthatch) and a few others shared by between the Maghreb.
But given the recent advances in avian taxonomy many species were split, with the result that the former Northwest African subspecies become full species more or less restricted to this region. Here are a few examples of these species:
- Levaillant’s Woodpecker (Picus vaillantii)
- Maghreb Lark (Galerida macrorhyncha)
- African Desert Warbler (Sylvia deserti)
- Tristram’s Warbler (Sylvia deserticola)
- Algerian Nuthatch (Sitta ledanti)
- Atlas Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula speculigera)
- Moussier’s Redstart (Phoenicurus moussieri)
- Seebohm’s Wheatear (Oenanthe seebohmi)
- Moroccan Wagtail (Motacilla alba subpersonata)
- African Crimson-winged Finch (Rhodopechys alienus)
The use of ‘Maghreb’ in bird names in some languages:
Based on ‘IOC World Bird Names’ (Gill & Donsker 2011) there is only one name, Maghreb Lark (Galerida macrorhyncha). For English names adopted by “Dutch Birding bird names” see below under the Dutch.
Based on ‘Liste des oiseaux du Maroc’ (Bergier & Thévenot 2010), there is only one name, Mésange maghrébine (Cyanistes teneriffae).
Based on Bergier & Thévenot (2010), there are none.
To my knowledge this is the richest language in terms of using the word Maghreb. van den Berg (2011) in his ‘Dutch Birding bird names for the Western Palearctic’ lists 5 Dutch names and 4 English names that have Maghreb in it:
- Maghrebbosuil – Strix aluco mauritanica – Maghreb Tawny Owl
- Maghrebekster – Pica mauritanica – Maghreb Magpie (this one is not split by other taxonomists)
- Maghrebpimpelmees – Cyanistes ultramarinus
- Maghrebmaquiszanger – Scotocerca inquieta saharae – Maghreb Scrub Warbler
- Maghrebboomkruiper – Certhia brachydactyla mauritanica – Maghreb Short-toed Treecreeper
Do you know any other names from any language, please let us know.
Bergier, P. & Thévenot, M. 2010. Liste des oiseaux du Maroc. Mise à jour février 2010 (rév. 3.0). Go-South Bull. 7: 15-55.
Gill, F & Donsker, D (Eds) 2011. IOC World Bird Names (version 2.10). Available at: http://www.worldbirdnames.org [Accessed on: 17 January 2011].
van den Berg, A.B. 2011. Dutch Birding bird names: list of Western Palearctic bird species. Dutch Birding Association, Amsterdam.